Auburn made a public statement over the weekend in regard to its 2018 recruiting class.
The Tigers offered 5-star Penn State quarterback commit Justin Fields, who is ranked the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country by the 247Sports composite rankings. Auburn’s offer to Fields answered a longtime question about whether the Tigers would attempt to take more than just Joey Gatewood at quarterback in the 2018 class.
It has been confirmed: Auburn will take two in 2018.
A source close to the program said the decision has been made to take a second quarterback in the class because of the sudden, surprising transfer of Tyler Queen. There is limited depth at quarterback behind Jarrett Stidham and Sean White, especially if Auburn hopes to redshirt Malik Willis.
Despite the decision to take a second, I’ve been told Gatewood is still considered “the guy” and staple of the 2018 class, so this has nothing to do with a lack of confidence in Gatewood, rather a need to strengthen the core group on campus.
What it means for Joey Gatewood
It’s somewhat tough to sell Gatewood as “the guy” when the first offer sent out when deciding to take two quarterbacks goes to a guy like Fields, who is one of the only dual-threat quarterbacks ranked ahead of Gatewood in this class.
But that’s not an issue for Gatewood.
For starters, he’s already used to the trials of a quarterback competition at Bartram Trail (Fla.), which he says has made him a much better quarterback. But this offer to Fields didn’t come as a major surprise to Gatewood, who told SEC Country that he and the staff have communicated for a while about the potential of taking a second quarterback.
When Queen transferred, coaches — specifically Chip Lindsey — conveyed to Gatewood that they’d need to start offering, visiting and evaluating other quarterbacks to bolster the depth at the position.
Moreover, Gatewood said Lindsey is letting him know everything as it pertains to quarterback recruiting. When coaches go visit another quarterback’s high school, they said they’ll let him know. When coaches send out another offer, they said they’ll tell him.
There are no plans to blindside Gatewood. Auburn has been giving him regular updates, so he knew the Fields offer was coming, just as he will be fully aware of any future moves.
Auburn’s options going forward
It’s relatively late in the cycle to build new relationships with recruits, especially at the quarterback position.
Auburn did a good job of closing late last class to secure then-Virginia Tech commit Malik Willis, which has turned out to be a fruitful move so far this spring. If Auburn wants to score another top quarterback, however, it’s likely going to stem from relationships the Tigers have built already.
In reference to the Tigers’ remaining quarterback options, here’s our analysis:
5-star Justin Fields, Harrison (Ga.): Fields is the most recent offer. He’s also a hot commodity for other programs such as Georgia, Florida and Florida State. Worth noting, Fields plays quarterback for the Cam Newton 7-on-7 team and grew up a fan of Newton. Still, it’ll be a tough flip for someone who is still committed to Penn State and has been recruited by other rival programs. Fields is keeping his options open, and a visit to Auburn wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest.
5-star Emory Jones, Heard County (Ga.): The Ohio State commit would be another tough pull, but he’s someone who Auburn has recently offered and also hosted a few times. Alabama, Florida and Florida State are others showing interest in Jones. I spoke with someone close to Jones’ recruitment at the Under Armour camp in Atlanta last month who said Auburn is nearly an impossible landing spot because it’s too close to home. He wants to step out of his comfort zone for his next destination.
4-star Gerry Bohanon, Earle (Ark.): It’s still not a sure thing Auburn wants Bohanon as a quarterback. When he left his visit, Bohanon said Auburn — like everyone except Arkansas — is recruiting him as a quarterback. I’ve been told his situation is more like someone who is considered an athlete that will be given a shot at quarterback. Bohanon does have impressive passing numbers that Auburn will continue to evaluate.
3-star Jarren Williams, Central Gwinnett (Ga.): Here’s another offer I could see Auburn extending in the near future, especially if the Tigers feel out of it for Fields and Jones. Williams recently de-committed from Kentucky, thanks to some recruiting pushes from Alabama and Georgia. Auburn visited Williams’ school last week in Atlanta, and he’s another prospect the Tigers will evaluate heavily this spring, fall and summer.
Unranked Cordel Littlejohn, Roswell (Ga.): Littlejohn is a newcomer to the state of Georgia after a 3,654-yard, 50-touchdown junior season in Lincolnton, N.C. He ended up at Roswell, which makes him the heir apparent to Willis’ quarterback throne for the Hornets. His cousin and fellow Roswell player Tyneil Hopper is another Auburn target. On Sunday, Littlejohn won quarterback MVP at a Rivals camp that Fields also attended. Littlejohn has visited Auburn with Hopper a few times this spring. Expect the Tigers to evaluate him in-depth going forward.